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National

December 12, 2011
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Frere Hall’s book bazaar on verge of closure

National

December 12, 2011

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On Sundays, the Frere Hall wears a slightly different look. Books and some serious readers take over its courtyard.
At this time of the year, when the weather is anything but harsh, the delight of spending a few hours below the towering architectural wonder among the old mildewed books of Hemingway, Joyce, Orwell, and others multiplies manifold.
But the booksellers, who make this atmosphere possible, say they cannot continue putting up stalls, given the rising overheads and the slim turn-up of booklovers. “Please give an ad in your newspaper, tell people what they are missing,” Imran, a bookseller, told this reporter.
The weekly book bazaar resumed weeks before Ramazan this year after the place remained formally barred from public activities for years owing to security reasons as the US Consulate General had previously been located opposite the Frere Hall.
The dearth of buyers also affected the price of books, making it difficult for the few visitors to buy anything. Booksellers claim that the limited car parking has also played a role in discouraging customers.
The gate from the Consulate-General end that leads to the Frere Hall is closed for unspecified reasons despite the fact that the diplomatic mission moved to another site months ago. The gate, according to booksellers, has choked a major flow of buyers, as it directly leads to the bazaar, and people could see the stalls from the road and drop by, parking their cars on the grassy lawn.
“It takes about Rs3,500-4,000 rupees to spend a day here. We need to hire Suzukis to carry out stock and then pay Rs100 for each table. A stall requires about 8-10 tables to properly display the books,” said Mansoor, a regular stall holder, who has a book shop in Urdu Bazaar.
The rupees 100 for each table, according to the stall holders, is being charged by a retired official of the Frere Hall named Malik. When contacted, Malik was not available for comment. The management offers

lighting and tent for the stalls, which booksellers say, is exorbitant. As the tent is a one-time expense, and the lighting which is hardly used for one and a half hour, they don’t cost that much.
According to the booksellers, the “management” of this bazaar at Frere Hall has driven away many of the interested stall Walas because the added cost is simply too high for them.
“We don’t come here for money. Here we hardly break-even,” said Mansoor. He said that the scenic beauty of the place and the hope that the sophisticated customers who show up may be interested to sell their libraries and they would get a better deal.
“Because we know these people collect books – whether they read them or not is a different matter,” he added.

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